SOUTHERN LEAGUE DIV.1 SOUTH
WINCHESTER CITY 3
Warren Bentley 11mins; Robert Flooks 31mins; Ollie Balmer 40mins
AFC TOTTON 1
Ade Olumuyiwa 10mins
After the false start of a postponed New Year’s Day trip to Sholing, AFC Totton’s first match of 2022 saw them slump to their fourth league defeat of the season with a tepid display at The Charters Community Stadium last night (Friday), that saw Winchester City throw their hat firmly into the ring for the promotion fight with a comprehensive 3-1 defeat of Dan Sackman’s Stags.
There was only one change to the AFC Totton starting line-up that thrashed Lymington Town 7-1 on the day after Boxing Day, with Adam Tomasso having to step down due to an injury aggravated in training. Callum Baughan moved into the central defensive midfield position and Ade Olumuyiwa returned at centre-back. Ethan Taylor’s continued absence through suspension meant Shaquille Gwengwe made his third consecutive start of the season. New signing Pascal Kpohomouh, the former Manchester City and Southampton defender who became a Stag on Wednesday evening, took a place on the bench.
Dan Sackman prefers his team to wear their change kit of fluo yellow shirts, black shorts and yellow socks when playing under floodlights and got his wish for this evening game at Winchester City. The early exchanges were a cacophony of long balls and headed clearances from both sides, that provided little by way of goalscoring opportunity or excitement. The first quality move saw Sam Griffin play Hisham Kasimu down the left wing and his low cross towards Gwengwe was cut-out by a sliding clearance from Kieran Douglas. And within seconds, Lewis Noice had to come a long way out of his goal at the other end to beat ex-Stag Craig Feeney to a long pass from the Winchester keeper, Charlie Philpott.
Totton were defending a high line and leaving themselves vulnerable to pace. Feeney managed to escape the attentions of Ben Jefford in the 6th minute, to get to Winchester captain Jamie Barron’s lobbed pass from midfield to the inside-right channel, but Noice read the situation and was out quickly to smother the chance at the expense of a corner. Harry Medway headed the cross away but the ball was sent back in to the far post area where Rob Flooks had a point blank header brilliantly saved by Lewis Noice, with Olumuyiwa on-hand to hack clear.
A pass from Ollie Balmer, who scored a brilliant free-kick in the opening minute of the previous encounter between these two teams at the Snows Stadium back in October, threatened to send Simba Mlambo, who also scored that day, away down the Winchester left wing, but Ade Olumuyiwa stuck to his task well and made a strong sliding challenge to halt his opponent’s progress.
The home side had settled into the game quicker than their visitors, and were unlucky not to take the lead when midfielder Patrick Nolan ghosted in from the left flank to rifle a firm, low shot against Noice’s right-hand upright. The ball bounced out and Totton swept straight up the field, with Hisham Kasimu picking up possession mid-way inside the Winchester half, advancing diagonally with the ball on his left foot, and striking a ferocious effort from the edge of the area that pulled an excellent save from Philpott, the on-loan Eastleigh shot-stopper leaping high to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Stags midfielder Jordan Ngalo.
Freddie Read delivered the corner towards Griffin near the penalty spot, from where the ball broke loose to Jordan Ngalo to the right. He fired his shot against the inside of the right-hand post, the ball rebounding across the face of Philpott to enable Ade OLUMUYIWA to bundle it home at close range to give the Stags a 10th-minute lead with his first goal of the season.
It didn’t last, though. Straight from the kick-off, the Citizens attacked directly down the middle with Simba Mlambo able to hold the ball up to the right of the penalty spot, with two Stags defenders in attendance. Mlambo played a short lay-off and Warren BENTLEY swept the ball home with a composed shot into the bottom-left corner.
Totton tried to force themselves back into the lead. Ben Jefford’s pass down the left-hand side enabled Kasimu to turn his marker and race away to fire in a low shot which Philpott saved low down. Griffin tried to keep the move alive but Winchester cleared the ball. Then, Feeney had two red-and-back striped teammates to aim for with a low cross from the Winchester right, a timely sliding intervention by Jefford preventing the ball from reaching them.
Ollie Balmer picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on Lewis Waterfield near the half-way line, on 20 minutes. Shortly after, Sam Griffin fired over from a tight angle from an AFC Totton corner on the right flank. Then, Bentley went down on the edge of the Totton area as he tried to find an angle for a shot. The referee waved play on and, within seconds, Kasimu had a low shot blocked, when a lay-off to the left would have found Griffin in acres of space to pick his spot. Shaq Gwengwe also had a shot blocked, as he struck one on the turn when another right-wing corner landed at his feet near the back post.
Olumuyiwa headed out a Winchester cross from their left wing. Barron followed up with a long-range shot, dragging his effort narrowly wide to the left. But shortly after the half hour mark, the home side took the lead.
A free-kick was awarded to Winchester about 10 yards inside the Totton half. The ball was slipped directly into the inside-left channel along the deck and fed to the overlapping left-back, Danny King, whose first attempt to cross was repelled by Olumuyiwa. But King got a second bite at the cherry and fired the ball into the middle again, this time finding Rob FLOOKS who slammed the ball home from close range.
The hosts were good value for their lead and almost extended it when Lewis Noice came out of his goal to receive a back-pass from a throw-in, only succeeding to present possession to Balmer. He tried to curl the ball into the far top corner of the unguarded net, but it faded away from goal and Jefford was able to clear.
Before Totton could recover their composure, they found themselves 1-3 down. Jefford did well to block an attempted through-ball but it just came straight back again before the left-back could get back onto his feet, picking out Ollie BALMER about 10 yards out to despatch another shot into Noice’s bottom-right corner, despite several offside appeals from Totton defenders.
There was still time before the break for Ade Olumuyiwa to test Philpott with an angled drive from the right of goal, after Ngalo bulldozed his way past three Winchester players on the edge of their own penalty area, but the keeper made a smart save and held onto the ball.
WINCHESTER CITY 3
AFC TOTTON 1
Dan Sackman chose to bring Jack Masterton on for the second-half, with Lewis Waterfield making way. Masterton moved into midfield with Callum Baughan returning to his usual right-back slot.
Shaq Gwengwe came close to throwing Totton a lifeline within a few minutes of the restart, when Ngalo found Griffin on the left, he checked infield onto his right foot and hung a high cross to the far post, where Gwengwe leapt alongside Philpott, the ball hitting the Stags striker on the back and bouncing narrowly wide of the post.
Simba Mlambo demonstrated his qualities as a strong target man, coming out to the right wing to head the ball down to Bentley. He picked out Balmer in space on the Winchester left but Olumuyiwa was able to get something in the way of the shot, the ball bouncing up too high for Feeney to capitalise upon it.
Gwengwe won a free-kick about 30 yards out, as he tried to latch onto a long drop-kick from Lewis Noice. Jack Masterton floated the ball into the box, looking for the head of Olumuyiwa, Philpott managing to punch it away for a corner. Freddie Read took it and there followed a goalmouth scramble in which Totton had two clear shots on goal, one of them by Griffin, but the home side survived with their two-goal lead in tact.
AFC Totton winger, Sam Griffin.
Another free-kick from a similar position for a foul from behind on Kasimu a few minutes later caused more confusion in the Winchester box, but once again they held on, despite a defensive miss-kick from Masterton’s delivery.
Jamie Barron was making a habit of popping up in long-range shooting positions but his aim was off, this time dragging the ball wide to the right with his left-footed shot. And Craig Feeney was keeping Ben Jefford honest by raiding down the right-wing whenever he could, Jefford having to stretch every sinew to keep pace with his former Totton teammate. From one such foray, Feeney won his side a corner on the right-hand side. Rob Flooks met it at the far post and headed against the top of the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.
In the 63rd minute, Dan Sackman brought on Jordan Ragguette in place of Shaq Gwengwe to inject some fresh legs, pace and attacking intent into the Stags. An early blocked shot by Ragguette fell to Jordan Ngalo whose low drive was saved in the middle of the goal by Philpott. Then, Kasimu led a one-man charge down the left that required the intervention of two defenders to stop him, but Totton continued to struggle to find a way through the well-marshalled Winchester defence.
Brett Williams was introduced from the bench for the last 20 minutes, with Freddie Read going off - a centre-forward replacing a central midfielder as the Stags went in search of goals. Winchester responded by replacing Ollie Balmer with Olly Bailey.
Ragguette received possession about 30 yards out on the left-hand side and tried to lob a curling cross-shot into the far top corner, but Philpott was equal to it and pushed the ball away. Then, a clever short-passing move between Barron and Bailey at the other end presented another shooting opportunity for the City captain, which Noice managed to smother by coming out to the edge of his area. A few minutes later, Noice was out in the left-back position to kick clear as Winchester tried to mount another attack down their right wing.
Williams latched onto a Noice clearance to take possession through the centre, on the attacking side of the centre-circle. With two defenders tracking him closely, he let fly with a stunning snapshot from about 40 yards out, forcing Philpott into a brilliant save down to his right. The ball bounced up high enough for Kasimu to follow-up with a well-hit angled shot but Kieran Douglas threw his body in the way to deflect it behind for a corner.
Callum Baughan was the next Stag to see his effort saved by Philpott, the keeper again getting down to his bottom-right corner to prevent the right-back registering what would have been his second goal of the campaign.
Strangely, with their team leading 3-1, many home fans made their way towards the club house and/or the exit gate with 5 minutes still to play. Perhaps they knew something the rest of us didn’t because other than a late dust-up involving Jordan Ngalo and Winchester substitute Max Smith, and a late flurry of yellow cards for time-wasting and talking back to the referee, nothing of any note happened before the final whistle brought an end to a depressing night for the Stags.
Froward Shaquille Gwengwe, pictured in action against Lymington Town on 27 December.
Not that it couldn’t get worse. While Ade Olumuyiwa was giving a post-match interview to Doug Taxil-Webber of StagsRadio on the half-way line, a Winchester player exiting the pitch in the corner among a crowd of his teammates made a loud, disparaging remark about him that sparked an angry confrontation. Olumuyiwa’s own teammates had already gone into the changing rooms, so he found himself somewhat outnumbered during the inevitable pushing and shoving that entailed.
The result leaves Totton third in the Southern League Div.1 South table, two points behind Cirencester Town and 7 points behind Frome Town, with one game in-hand. Winchester City have moved up to 4th. Sholing, in 5th, have enough games in-hand to take them back to 2nd spot in due course.
Match Report by Ben Rochey-Adams
Image courtesy of Craig Hobbs Photography